Israel in a Flash: NCJW's Gender Equality Initiative

IntroductionPress Statement on HarassmentGrants AnnouncementPress Statement on access to the Western Wall in JerusalemNCJW Israel Program BasicsThe Israel Granting ProgramDistance Learning CallsPress ReleasesIsrael ConnectionIssue Focus: Freedom to MarryIssue Focus: Trafficking of WomenIssue Focus: Women in the public sphere

For more than 60 years, NCJW has helped lay the groundwork for important social change efforts in Israel. NCJW is committed to advancing women’s status in Israel by helping women develop a stronger voice at all levels of society. NCJW’s Gender Equality Initiative focuses on freedom to marry, anti-sex trafficking, women in the public sphere, religious pluralism, and women’s empowerment through our Israel Granting Program, advocacy, and education. Online resources offer NCJW members and sections ways to engage locally and nationally in promoting gender equality in Israel.

Use these materials to enhance your work around Gender Equality in Israel  and to help you raise awareness in your community.

NCJW Condemns Harassment and Silencing of Israelis Invited to Speak at National LGBT Conference in Chicago

NCJW believes strongly in open dialogue to achieve human rights, women’s rights, and gender equality—even when that dialogue is challenging. Boycotts, denying free speech, and marginalizing and oppressing individuals because of their nationality is offensive. It is particularly disturbing to find an LGBTQ organization—supposedly committed to liberty from societal oppression and respect for diversity—allowing such behavior at their national conference.” Read more from the press release here.

NCJW Announces Grants to Further Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Israel

“NCJW has been partnering with projects in Israel since 1947,” said NCJW CEO Nancy K. Kaufman. “We believe empowerment and equality of women, along with promoting religious pluralism, are key elements in strengthening Israel as a democratic Jewish state with a vibrant civil society. We are proud to support innovative grassroots organizations that further those goals.” Read more from the press release here.

NCJW Hails Israel’s Move to Broaden Access to Western Wall

“The government’s action is a huge victory for egalitarian prayer services, religious tolerance, and gender equality, and for all those, including NCJW, who struggled over many years to make this happen…The decision will help heal a rift that developed over this issue between the government and Jews who are not Orthodox but desired access to the Wall. Addressing this rift will also strengthen ties between Israel and American Jews in particular, most of whom are not Orthodox, but Reform and Conservative.” Read more from the press release here.

NCJW Encouraged by Recent Signing of Trade Act That Includes Protections for Israel Against Boycott Movement

“The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) resolves to work for “policies and programs that promote peaceful co-existence within Israel and between Israel and its neighbors” and to “counter attempts to delegitimize Israel.” NCJW sees a secure Israel as central to the Jewish people and vital to the interests of the United States.” Read more from the press release here.

The Israel Granting Program

The NCJW Israel Granting Program addresses the critical challenges still facing women in Israel today, and promotes further progressive action. NCJW emphasizes empowerment and leadership programs for women and girls as well as gender equality as the cornerstones of NCJW’s Israel Granting Program. Grant recipients include organizations and programs designed to address Israeli women’s rights and well-being in areas like economics, politics, education, domestic violence, and social justice.
How to participate in the Israel Granting Program

Current Granting Partners
If you would like more information or are interested in supporting NCJW’s Israel program, please contact Shari Eshet, director of the Israel office at

Israel Connection

Shari Eshet, Director of the NCJW Israel Office, writes a newsletter featuring updates about our gender equality work. If you would like to receive the Israel Connection newsletter, please reach out to Aviva Crystal, NCJW Community Engagement Associate, at

  • May 2016 – Special Yom Haatzmaut issue
  • March 2016Talking about Agunot Awareness
  • January 2016 – Announcing our 2016 Israel Granting Partner, Criticising the BDS movement
  • September 2015 – Celebrating the appointment of a Minister for Gender Equality, Meeting Justice Elena Kagan
  • June 2015 – Israel Granting Program successes, Israel in a Flash is now online
  • February 2015 – The Israeli govenement’s National Gender Action Plan, International Agunot Day


Blog Posts and News

  • Egalitarian Section of Western Wall ‘Profanes’ Holy site, Haredi Group Agudah Says
    February 1, 2016 – JTA
    Nancy Kaufman, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, said in a statement that her organization
    “has long promoted equal access to the Western Wall for all Jews regardless of denomination or gender.”
    She called the Israeli government’s approval of the plan “a huge victory for egalitarian prayer services,
    religious tolerance, and gender equality, and for all those, including NCJW, who struggled over many years
    to make this happen.” “The decision will help heal a rift that developed over this issue between the government
    and Jews who are not Orthodox but desired access to the Wall. Addressing this rift will also strengthen ties
    between Israel and American Jews in particular, most of whom are not Orthodox, but Reform
    and Conservative,” Kaufman said.


  • To Anat Hoffman, The Rockstar
    Shari Eshet, The Times of Israel
    “Knowing you, it is the beginning. But knowing how hard and how long you fought, I am hoping, as is all Am Yisrael that you don’t rest on your laurels. I like to think that this announcement by the government of Israel is G-d whispering in your ear saying…Go Anat Go. There is so much to do. You fought the establishment and won. You fought the rabbis and you won. You went up against the politicians and you won. And you won, because you are right. Now you need to continue the fight.”  
  • Click here to read more of Shari Eshet’s column in The Times of Israel 

Issue Focus: Freedom to Marry: Alternatives to Religious Marriage

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Israeli law permits only religious marriages held by religious testimony, and does not allow civil marriages, religious intermarriage or same sex marriage. For Jews living in Israel, the Chief Rabbinate has a monopoly over marriage, and only operates under an Orthodox standard. Members of other religions can only marry spouses of the same religion and only by their own recognized religious authority. In cases of Jewish marriage, alternatives to religious marriages is critical when it comes to divorce. The only way to divorce under the rabbinate is for the man to give the woman a gett, a religious divorce, otherwise she becomes an Agunah, a woman who is “chained” to her marriage, unable to remarry. NCJW sees this as an issue that affects all Jewish woman around the world and is a serious restriction of human rights. Learn more about NCJW’s work with Agunot here!


Take Action today! Stand Up for Marriage Rights in Israel


NCJW Statements

Program Ideas

Educate Your Community on the issue

Reading for International Agunot Day



The Agunah



Sentenced to Marriage (Mekudeshet) by Anat Zuria (Documentary)

Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem by Ronit Elkabetz, Shlomi Elkabetz

Film Guide – Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem

Web Resources


IGP Partner Israel Hofsheet (Be Free Israel)

The International Coalition for Agunah Rights



‘Gett’: The Horrors of Jewish Divorce (via The Daily Beast)

Majority of Israelis Support Freedom of Religion, Marriage (via the Times of Israel)

A Civil Framework for Marriage and Divorce in Israel

“The War on Women in Israel”



“Jennifer Kim from Turning the Tables thanks NCJW”

“Choose your way to get married in Israel” (via Israel Hofsheet)



Issue Focus: Trafficking of Women 

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Watch: From Jennifer, with love, to NCJW

Click the image above to watch Jennifer Kim of Turning the Tables, which has received funding through the Israel Granting Program, thank NCJW for their contributions to help her and others break the cycle of prostitution and sex trafficking.

Although trafficking is still a major problem in Israel, the U.S. State Department has reported: “The Government of Israel continues to improve its strong protection of trafficking victims.” However, there are many women in Israel who are being trafficked into the sex trade. NCJW has lobbied the Israeli government on this issue and has helped fund various organizations in Israel who work with victims of sex trafficking.


Learn more

NCJW Talking Points: Combating Sex Trafficking in Israel



Coming soon!




Web Resources



Issue Focus: Women in the public sphere

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The rise of fanaticism in the religious sector has lead to the diminished rights of women in the public sphere in Israel.The spaces where women’s involvement has been limited include the army, the school system and in government – both local and national. NCJW has been working with other organizations in Israel and beyond to help stop the discriminatory effect on the rights of women in the public spheres.



coming soon!

NCJW Statements

NCJW Applauds Israeli Cabinet for Advancing Gender Equality in Government


Web Resources



Yerushalmim Wins Bus Brawl: High Court Rules in Favor of Bus Ads Featuring Women of All Types (via the Times of Israel)



NCJW CEO Nancy K. Kaufman and Elana Sztokman, author of The War on Women in Israel discussing gender equality in Israel on C-Span


We welcome your feedback! To share comments, tell us about your efforts, or ask a question, contact Shari Eshet, director NCJW Israel Office,

The NCJW Gender Equality in Israel Initiative is made possible in part by the generous contributions of the  Friends of the NCJW Israel Programs fund. Click here for information on becoming a supporter.